It's a miracle, not

Sai Baba died. Finally. Pity people will be all "Oh, that's so sad" over a death and forget about all bullshit miracle healing he did (or rather, didn't do).

Here's TODAYonline's little news report:

Hindu holy man Sathya Sai Baba dies In India at 86

PUTTAPARTI, India (AP) - A doctor says Hindu holy man Sathya Sai Baba, considered a living god by followers, has died. He was 86.

Dr. A.N. Safaya says Sathya Sai Baba died Sunday morning after more than a week on breathing support and dialysis at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences.

Women selling marigold garlands broke down into tears outside his ashram in Puttaparti village in southern Andhra Pradesh state. Followers began trickling into the temple complex, where the holy man's body will be lay in state until Tuesday.

The saffron-robed Sathya Sai Baba had a huge following, with ashrams in more than 126 countries across the world.

By the way, it's not miracle either if he didn't die. Just so you know.

A Sick Healer

It's funny how faith and miracle healers never seem to be able to invoke the same powers they claim to have used to heal thousands to heal themselves.

India's "spiritual leader" Sai Baba is still in hospital (yes, apparently, actual medicine is preferred) according to BBC news:

India spiritual leader Sai Baba 'on life support'
BBC News - 22 April

One of India's most revered spiritual leaders, Satya Sai Baba, is critically ill and on a life-support system, his doctors say.

Thousands of his followers have begun converging at his home town in southern India, prompting the authorities to step up security.

The 84-year-old guru is thought to have millions of followers around the world.

His distinctive orange robes and hairstyle have made him one of India's most recognisable gurus.

Sai Baba was admitted to a hospital in his hometown of Puttaparthi last month, with what doctors described as lung and chest congestion.

After initially showing signs of improvement, his condition become critical once again, they say.

A health bulletin issued by the hospital said his vital organs were not responding well to treatment.
Controversial career

The news of Sai Baba's ill-health has prompted many of his followers to rush to Puttaparthi.

Police have erected barricades around the hospital as a safety measure and also announced a ban on large public gatherings to prevent large crowds forming.

Sai Baba counts former Indian prime ministers, prominent businessmen and cricketers among his followers.

But his career has also been dogged by controversy. He has been accused of faking some of the so-called miracles attributed to him.

And some former followers have levelled accusations of sexual abuse against him and other members of his ashram - charges that he has denied.

He has never been charged by police in connection with these allegations.

I'm sorry, I don't believe anyone ever had any kind of healing powers. No, wait, I'm not the least apologetic about it - Sai Baba included. I'm not the least bit sympathetic either - in fact, I'd be quite happy to see charlatans die due to ironic causes.

Why do I care?

Why do I care about god(s) and religion?
Simple. Because I still give a damn about the world.

We still give a damn about humanity.
This is not a crusade against faith and hope.
This is not about making religions illegal.
This is not building another religion.

To be clear, we don't want another religion and we're not about to make atheism a "religion" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean). We don't think making religions illegal would actually address the core issue. And we certainly are not trying to take away hope and meaning in your life.

We care passionately about skepticism, science and truth. More importantly, we believe humanity as a whole would be much better off embracing an ever more accurate picture of reality and abandoning the rusty shackles of religion, myths and superstition.

This is not a superficial attack on religion because we find its adherents' behaviour abhorrent. This is more than that. I find religions themselves abhorrent in every aspect. Religions are not only factually incorrect (or unsupported) but also morally inferior and socially divisive.

The Failing of Basics
If for no other reason that religions deserve (intellectual) hostility, it is because it has NEVER been demonstrated to be true. Calling it a lie is only a matter of perspective.

The fact is, the existence of any god(s) has never been demonstrated. There are theologians who presume god(s)' existence, apologists who attempt to essentially argue god(s) into existence but no "theologist" ever demonstrated god(s)' existence.

All the various arguments for god(s) succumb to the some kind of logical fallacy rendering them void. But even if we were to grant that the logical arguments were somehow logically valid and/or sound, they still cannot demonstrate existence. For that we need evidence - evidence that has never been produced for the thousands of years humanity has been inventing gods.

Other claims associated with religion has never been demonstrated either. Genuine studies of the efficacy of prayer always turned up negative. Even the idea that increased religiosity would improve societal health is false - the data seems to show that the opposite is the case.

And yet some religious fractions attack the scientific enterprise, built on evidence, and education in general in the name of their god(s). Can we not be furious?

The Virus of Faith
When reason and evidence fail to support the case of god(s), the faithful often turn to faith as the answer. Faith, according to them, is not only a sufficient justification to believe in God or god(s) and their religion but that it is also virtuous and even demanded by God himself.

Faith is no such thing. In this context (the way faith is used), faith is the permission slip the faithful give themselves and others to believe in things not demonstrated (colloquially, proved) or demonstrable (colloquially, provable). It is a cop out.

In the absence of evidence, the only rational thing anybody should do is to disbelieve the claim. Actually, everybody usually does that. Yet in this one aspect of life, supposedly the most important aspect - God and Religion, the faithful suspend their skepticism and believe uncritically in extravagant claims without the slightest shred of evidence that meet decent evidential standards. Faith is gullibility.

And yet countless tragedies and atrocities were perpetuated with such strong religious conviction based on the flimsiest of reasons. Can we afford to stay silent?

The Scourge of Ignorance
Religions are at their very core is a product of ignorance - it is born of ignorance and it breeds ignorance to sustain itself. This is most evident in the fundamentalist variants of the faith. In America, certain Christian fractions push for the pseudoscientific trojan horse of creationism, Intelligent Design, in opposition to the scientific theory of evolution which they apparently do not understand. Even more obscene denials of scientific progress is displayed by Flat Earth societies/proponents from both Christian and Muslim perspectives.

We could probably laugh off Flat-Earthers as silly harmless nonsense. But America has to deal with religious siege on the education of their future pillars of society. Mind you, this shit is spreading across the world.

Ignorance also kills. Children die, in this modern age in developed countries, due to the lack of medical treatment - medical treatment that was denied on religious grounds by faithful parents. Arguing that this is a fringe movement/sect does not absolve religious thinking of responsibility.

The dangerous nonsense of faith healing is feeding the bank accounts of fraudulent preachers (whether they believe their own nonsense or they are knowingly conning people) while never delivering any actual demonstration of healing powers. People, both the desperate and the gullible put off seeking actual medical treatment only risk further complications, wasting time and money for false hopes.

The mental, intellectual and physical well-being of people and especially children, humanity's future, is under threat. Can we not speak out and take action against this ludicrous harm?

The Muddying of Morals
Religious morals are often, well, not morals at all. The usual arguments for religious morality essentially renders morals to be god(s)' fiats. I shan't go into a morality debate here so to summarize the problem with linking god with morality is distilled down to the Euthyphro dilemma - either morals are arbitrarily defined by god(s) or god is merely a messenger of morality.

When it comes to the holy scripture, they are obviously no guide for morality. The only morality it presents is the barbaric outdated morality of Bronze Age nomads. Anyone who wishes to argue that this is not the case may actually have to read the books first.

As usual, there are religious folks, throngs of them, who are vehemently against homosexuality and rights of homosexuals. This justified by the Bible (Leviticus 20:13). There are masses that are against women's reproductive rights, claiming that abortion is murder. This justified by the Bible in some obscure interpretation. Some Islamic countries are even more backwards, having issues even with gender equality.

Religions seem to have no clue what morality is but the religious sure are quick to enshrine their morality in law with the implication that anyone who disagree with their brand of morality still has to live by them. Can we just sit back and watch?

We're not staying silent.
We're not going to sit by and watch.

We're speaking out against religious ignorance, intolerance and violence.
We're taking action to safeguard the future.

The time is now.

It is not Islam - It's Religion

This is a response to "'Flaming' of Islam has to be stopped" published in the Review and Forum section of The Straits Times, 6 April 2011.

An American pastor branded a cultist by estranged followers eventually made good on his threat to burn the Quran. He can now rouse his dwindling flock by saying President Barack Obama, the Defence Secretary and the general conducting the Afghanistan campaign could not stop him from dramatising his beliefs.

Okay... So he "won" some boasting rights in some people's perspective. Uh huh.

Which were, what? Of the wanton killings by Muslim rioters that his act caused in Afghanistan the past week, pastor Terry Jones disputes that he has blood on his hands. His next act, he suggests, is to place Prophet Muhammad 'on trial', just as he had the Quran. Its burning had been the 'sentence'.

Bloody fucking nonsense.

"Wanton killings by Muslim rioters that his act caused"? It might as well have read "Failures in School Examinations caused by Science."

This statement brazenly ignores the autonomy of the Muslims involved in the riotings and killings. If I killed a murderer's mother as revenge for the murderer's killing of my mother, would I somehow be relieved of my responsibilities because my actions were a reaction to offences against  me? I say not.

There is nothing theatrical about random acts of provocation. They are downright dangerous, abetted in some cases by permissive laws. A case could be made out that there are degrees of madness or delusion which afflict leaders of cults. But how to define depravity within an American constitutional context of free speech guarantees? Bringing decorum to the religious sphere has to start in America because intolerance tends to find fertile soil in its interior communities.

I honestly don't believe that Free Speech itself is the issue here. It is not the root of the problem at hand. Again, blaming Free Speech for permitting religiously motivated hateful speech is like blaming cars for people speeding in them.

That the Quran burning was a triumph of ignorance and bigotry, there is no doubt. Fair-minded people are rightly alarmed at the poisonous overtone of religious contestation that arose after the Sept 11 attacks spawned a misleading view of Islam. What is being done to roll back the prejudice? The pastor's act and that of a Danish newspaper cartoonist who drew offensive caricatures of the Prophet are signs of an anti-Islam baiting campaign gathering force. It could get more widespread, in Europe as well as in America. It will spark retaliatory mob violence which in turn will harden attitudes against Islam. What then?

 Again, it seems unusual to me that the author of this article passes over the autonomy of the people involved in the "retaliatory mob violence". 

So it's not okay to speak ill of others' religion but it's okay to kill people, destroy property because you were pissed over someone speaking ill of your religion. 

What's the bigger issue here? Somebody needs to get their priorities straight and I don't think it's me...

The American public, politicians and the media have acted sensibly in condemning the pastor for his stunt. The Quran-burning ritual which took place on March 20 had been deliberately blacked out by media. It became public knowledge only after the pastor posted a video of it on his website. But America may have to go beyond a climate of censure as a check against intemperance, to consider criminalising incitement in an expansion of hate-crimes legislation. Arguing free speech as a First Amendment bedrock protection may become less convincing over time when religious extremists begin to cause schisms and serious disruptions in society. The European Union has just as robust protections. Yet Germany and many other European nations still outlaw denials of the Holocaust and the Jewish extermination. What could be more injurious to social order in a post-Sept 11 world than the 'flaming' of Islam as sport?

The article seeks to pin blame on Free Speech for permitting insults that causes Muslim robots to go insane and kill people. No?

"Bullshit"  is an appropriate response I think.

The problem as I see it is two pronged (and Free Speech ain't either one of them) - it is education in general and religion itself.

It is a failure of education of the public in general. Fundamentalist Christians are thought to be poor in their general knowledge of religions around the world (their religion included). It doesn't help that the religious, conservative segments of the population perpetuate the "Islamist" stereotype of Muslims in general in their communities and some media sources.

One might argue that the failure of education is due to certain religious attitudes which brings us to the other prong.

Throughout history, religions has demonstrated their ability to cause and catalyse conflicts. This is no exception.

Create insular societies based on unevidenced claims to ultimate truths and a connection to the divine creator of the universe. Follow that up by creating an Us versus Them scenario where "us" is good and godly and "them" is evil and of the devil. Wait for one party to do something perceived as inflammatory by the opposing side and watch the shit hit the fans.

Yes, the pastor did something distasteful - he burnt a Quran. And yes, just distasteful. It's not the most pleasant or eloquent way of making a point but still, it is a valid point and can/should be discussed.

But we don't fucking kill people for it. You can be all pissy and disagree with that pastor but if you go ape-shit and kill somebody over it, you are wrong. Period.

The author seems to skip over this aspect as he attempts to blame Free Speech for the problem as if it was acceptable to murder because someone insulted your religious beliefs. To this, my first  response was "WTF?"

Such obscene irrationality on the part of the religious should be condemned whenever and wherever it happens. Instead, here it's seems to be regarded as somehow acceptable because it's religious.

If you don't like people criticizing your religion, perhaps it's your religion that needs fixing - you don't "fix" the people.